As any farmer knows, field conditions differ year-to-year and can’t be predicted. That’s why some farmers choose to hire crop scouts throughout the growing season (mid-April to September) to walk, analyze and report on their field conditions. Scouting is an integral part of serving our progressive farmers by providing an extra set of eyes in their fields each week.
How are scouts trained?
Crop scouts are trained through a series of OMAFRA training days, as well as through ongoing education that they receive throughout the season with the scout coordinator. Scouts also have the support of staff, including: agronomists, sales representatives, the scout coordinator, and OMAFRA extension staff.
What do crop scouts do?
Crop scouts follow integrated pest management (IPM) procedures and are able to identify both common and uncommon pests: weeds, insects and insect feeding, and diseases and disorders. Crop scouts will also be able to identify crop fertility and determine thresholds. Crop scouts are also used to collect field crop data, such as taking populations and monitoring crop fertility and growth stage.
Crop scouts will enter the fields armed with knowledge of specific ‘hotspots’ and previous issues in the fields, as well as a notebook for accurate record keeping and other tools. Some of these tools include a hand lens, trowel, cell phone, iPad and field guides, which are used on a daily basis to support scouts. They will stop at several locations within the fields to look at several plants, and examine their flowers, leaves, fruit, stems and roots, if necessary.
How often do scouts walk fields?
A crop scout needs to look at many plants throughout the field, so they walk through the rows in order to cover the whole field. Scouts walk horticulture crops once per week at approximately the same time throughout the growing season. Row crops have different scout timing; crops like cereals, corn and soybeans are scouted about 4 times per season, based on the crop stage. Based on knowledge of disease or insect outbreaks, these fields may be walked more often.
Where do scouts record their findings?
Sylvite’s crop scouts use an online program to record their findings and organize the data they collect. This program is tailored to Sylvite’s needs, providing fast and accurate reports on specific crops and issues.
Within these reports, scouts can record weather, crop stages and development data, weeds (type, amount and stage), disease (type, amount and where on the plant), insects (type, stage and amount). Scouts record any additional information in the comment section of the report, which could include a summary of everything observed, nutrient deficiencies and general field observations. These reports also contain satellite mapping of each field and will include a path of where the scout walked and markers to pinpoint specific problem areas within a field.
These reports are sent immediately to the scout coordinator, who reviews them for accuracy; if there are any issues in the field, photos are sent and the scout coordinator will verify the issue. The scout coordinator will then call the farmer, the sales representative or the agronomist so that the issue can be addressed accordingly.
Sales representatives/agronomists will follow up with their customers so that they can provide recommendations. If any further diagnostic tools are required, such as soil tests, tissue analysis or extra traps on top of the usual amount, extra costs will be charged. If desired, printed copies of the reports will be provided to the farmer at the end of the year.
How can I participate in the scouting program?
Before the scouting season starts, farmers need to talk to their sales representative about having their fields scouted.
During the growing season, farmers need to provide records of crop protection materials applied; this ensures scout safety. In the event that crop protection materials are applied close to the time of scouting, arrangements will be made to scout the field at a different time. If spraying is done repeatedly near or when scouts are scheduled to scout the field, they will not scout that week to ensure scout safety.